Thursday, May 26, 2011
May 26 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Senate approved a four-year extension of provisions in the USA Patriot Act allowing law enforcement to track suspected terrorists with roving wiretaps.
The legislation passed on a 72-23 vote. A previous extension, approved by Congress in February, was set to expire at midnight tonight. The measure goes to the House for final passage before being sent to President Barack Obama for his signature. The surveillance powers would be extended until June 1, 2015.
The measure "will safeguard us from future attacks," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said before the vote. "By extending this invaluable terror-fighting tool, we're staying ahead" of terrorists who want to attack the U.S., he said.
The bill's roving-wiretap section allows federal agents to obtain a single warrant to monitor telephone calls of suspects using a series of mobile phones.
Other provisions allow authorities to obtain business and library records, and to target so-called "lone wolf" suspects who aren't affiliated with any terrorist group.
Senator Rand Paul, a bill opponent, tried to delay the vote, pressing for the bill to be amended. The Kentucky Republican said the legislation goes too far in violating privacy rights to keep the U.S. secure.
"Do we want a government that looks at our Visa bill?" he said in a May 24 floor speech. "Do we want a government that looks at all of our records and is finding out what our reading habits are?"
The Patriot Act was passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, and many of its provisions are permanent law. Some of its surveillance powers have been opposed by some lawmakers and outside groups, including civil liberties activists.
--Editors: Laurie Asseo, Leslie Hoffecker
In: Regional News
Tags: patriot act, wiretapping, us senate,
Location: Washington D.C., District of Columbia, United States (load item map)
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